by ROBERT BECKHUSEN It can be hard to tell which announcements from Iran are true, which ones are wish-fulfillment, and which ones are simply Iran trying to keep up with the Joneses. Consider that when you hear the news that Iran is planning to build nuclear submarines. According to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, Rear Adm. [...]
Archived posts with tag ‘submarines’
The cost of building Virginia-class attack submarines could grow by up to $600 million if Congress signs off on the Navy’s proposal to slip a Virginia from 2014 to 2018. Under heavy pressure to cut budgets, the Navy wants to reduce sub-building expenses in the short term, even at the price of increasing the program’s overall cost. But two powerful legislators, longtime sub-booster Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (formerly a Democrat but now an independent) and House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R.-Calif.), are rallying opposition to the delay.
The military’s latest secret assessment of China’s rapidly modernizing submarines has good news and bad news for the U.S. Navy. On one hand, the roughly 60 submarines in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet are spending more and more time on combat-ready patrols — signaling China’s increasing naval competence and growing seriousness about influencing the western Pacific Ocean.
Taiwan’s Submarine Fantasy
Forget designing and building stealth fighters or robot aircraft. They are not the toughest technological design challenges in the world of weaponry. The hardest weapons to develop are large, armed submarines. They are, after all, the closest equivalent to spacecraft, with the added requirement that they be largely autonomous — that is, functional while cut off from the outside world — and support large numbers of people. Even the Royal Navy, no stranger to submarines, had to call in U.S. assistance to build its latest Astute-class subs.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has a new maritime patrol plane apparently optimized for finding and destroying submarines. But whose submarines? And how effective will it be?
The U.S. Navy’s roughly 55 nuclear-powered attack and guided-missile submarines represent one of the United States’ biggest advantages over potential enemies. The Navy this year managed to double, to two a year, the annual production rate for Virginia-class submarines, resulting in a long-term attack sub force of no fewer than 40 vessels – more, by far, than any other nation.
On March 19, the guided-missile submarine Florida fired more than 90 of the roughly 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles that took down Libyan air defenses, clearing the way for NATO strike planes. It was the major-combat debut for America’s fleet of “SSGN” subs. Each of the four vessels packs up to 154 Tomahawks, making them some of the world’s most powerful warships.
It was the U.S. Navy’s biggest jolt in years. On October 26, 2006, a Chinese Song-class attack submarine quietly surfaced within nine miles of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk as the 80,000-ton-diplacement vessel sailed on a training exercise in the East China Sea between Japan and Taiwan.
With rising costs and shrinking budgets, many of the world’s navies are finding it difficult to sustain their submarine fleets. Only through concerted effort, and with major innovation, has the U.S. Navy been able to minimize the decline of its own undersea force, still the world’s most powerful.
The U.S. Navy appears to be quietly modifying some of its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new sonar system possibly optimized for detecting increasingly quiet Chinese submarines.
China’s submarine fleet is largely limited to a coastal defensive role, but still could not prevent infiltration by U.S. undersea boats, according to a recent analysis by Owen Cote Jr. of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program.